By Jubin Katiraie
Iranian border guards have shot dead 21 kolbars in the past five months in western Iran, so Iranian Twitter users have been protesting with the hashtag #كولبر_نكشيد (do not kill kolbars), which became Iran’s top trending topic on Twitter on Sunday.
Who are kobars?
They are border porters – usually young men – who have the arduous task of carrying heavy loads across the mountainous terrain between Iran and Iraq. Many are university graduates or national athletes who have no choice but to take this low paying job, because of rising unemployment and poverty in the border regions.
The job contains risks to their life, such as falling off narrow paths or becoming injured through the constant movement of heavy goods. Other common causes of death or injury are avalanches, hyperthermia, and hypothermia. Most kolbars cannot afford to pay hospital bills if injured.
Why are they being killed?
The regime, which profits from its smuggling, wrongly declares the kobars to be smugglers, and routinely shoots and kills them.
The 21 kolbar deaths we mentioned above does not include porters who were injured or maimed by security forces since the start of the new Iranian year on March 21.
The most recent case of a kolbar being shot dead was on July 31, when Iranian border forces opened fire on a group of kolbars in Chaldaran without warning; shooting Reza Pour Ismael three times in the stomach at close range.
His death follows Shemzin Ahmadi on July 17, who was wounded when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards opened fire on him and died after eight days in hospital. In June, former storeowner Ibrahim Jordizaj and Ahmadi’s brother Arsalan were killed.
In May, security forces killed Kamran Mulania, the father of a 5-year-old girl, after opening fire on a group of kolbars in Sardasht, and Vazir Mohammad, a father of one from Kermanshah.
The regime isn’t particularly worried about prosecuting their agents for these extrajudicial killings, but they did crack down heavily on a group of men who protested the killing of porters in 2017.
This case came to court this year in Baneh and, in July, 10 men were each sentenced to 25 lashes, three months in prison, and 25 million tomans fine for their protests.
Also in July, the Hengaw Human Rights Organization reported that at least 14 kolbars were injured in the Kurdistan border region, with 80% of these being the result of direct fire by border forces.